Meet Preview: 2023 GPAC Cross Country Championships

By Jacob Knabel on Oct. 30, 2023 in Cross Country

SEWARD, Neb. – It’s GPAC week for Concordia University Cross Country. The Bulldogs are gearing up for Saturday’s 2023 GPAC Cross Country Championships to be held in North Sioux City, S.D. Concordia will venture back to Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve for races slated to begin at 10:45 a.m. CT on the women’s side and 11:30 a.m. CT on the men’s side. The conference meet has not been held at this particular location since 2003. Both Bulldog squads came away from the ’03 GPAC meet with second place claims.

Meet Info – 2023 GPAC Cross Country Championships
--Saturday, Nov. 4 | Women’s 6k – 10:45 a.m., Men’s 8k – 11:30 a.m.
--Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve | North Sioux City, S.D.
--Results: Black Squirrel Timing
--Video (finish line): GPAC X account

Head Coach Matt Beisel’s program enters the GPAC Championships with high hopes. Currently ranked first in the GPAC and No. 6 nationally, the Concordia women are poised to qualify for the NAIA National Championships for a second year in a row (and for the third time in Beisel’s tenure). The women will take aim at the program’s second GPAC team championship in a five-year stretch. On the men’s side, it will be no easy task for any opposition to catch Dordt, the defending NAIA national champion. The Concordia men are currently ranked third in the GPAC. The goal is to put forth a showing that would give them consideration for an at-large national championships bid.

Said Beisel, “Our theme for the year is: ‘be where your feet are.’ It’s this idea that we want to focus on two things. We want to focus on our relationship with Christ and growing in our faith and leaning into Him for trust. We also want to focus on the present, where we are surrounded by incredible teammates who love us and who we love. Each day, focus on what’s right in front of our nose and take care of the things we can control. We have to enjoy the moment and not worry about the future. I think that theme has really helped us take it one day at a time and not obsess over what’s going to happen.”

As part of the 2023 regular season, the Bulldogs competed in six meets while often going up against strong NAIA Division II and NAIA opponents. The women’s team turned in place finishes of ninth out of 29 at the Augustana Twilight, fifth out of 20 at the Greeno/Dirksen Invite, 10th out of 37 at the Griak Invite, second out of three at the Dean White Invite, third out of 17 at the Briar Cliff Invite and fourth out of 23 at the Blazing Tiger NAIA Classic. Meanwhile, the men posted place finishes of 12th out of 32 at the Augustana Twilight, eighth out of 24 at the Greeno/Dirksen Invite, 17th out of 32 at the Griak Invite, second out of three at the Dean White Invite, sixth out of 18 at the Briar Cliff Invite and 10th out of 23 at the Blazing Tiger NAIA Classic.

There are four current Bulldogs who have previously earned all-conference honors thanks to top 15 finishes at the GPAC Championships. Three Concordia runners own two career All-GPAC awards: Kylahn Freiberg (second in 2019 and eighth in 2022), Rylee Haecker (seventh in 2021 and 15th in 2022) and Calvin Rohde (10th in 2021 and 14th in 2022). Julie McIntyre also garnered all-conference recognition in 2022 while placing 14th in the conference.

As captains for their respective sides, Freiberg and Rohde have routinely emerged as frontrunners this fall. The fifth-year Bulldog Freiberg was named the GPAC Runner of the Week on Sept. 6 and Sept. 20. Rohde took home that same honor on the men’s side on Sept. 20. Freiberg owns Concordia’s best 5k (18:22.4) and 6k (21:40.12) times this season. Rohde’s season best of 25:17.16 in the 8k came at the Briar Cliff Invite and represents the team’s best 8k time in 2023. Other Concordia competitors to lead the team in at least one meet this season include Claire Beikmann, Westley Determan, Keeli Green, Charlie Hayden, Julie McIntyre and Trey Robertson.

Top individuals by meet, 2023 (women):
Augustana Twilight: Kylahn Freiberg – 18:30.28 (5k)
Greeno/Dirksen: Kylahn Freiberg – 18:22.4 (5k)
Griak Invite: Keeli Green – 23:32.3 (6k)
Dean White: Claire Beikmann – 21:51.72 (5k)
Briar Cliff Invite: Kylahn Freiberg – 21:40.12 (6k)
Blazing Tiger: Julie McIntyre – 22:11.6 (6k)

Top individuals by meet, 2023 (men):
Augustana Twilight: Charlie Hayden – 21:02.36 (4 miles)
Greeno/Dirksen: Calvin Rohde – 25:54.9 (8k)
Griak Invite: Trey Robertson – 27:10.8 (8k)
Dean White: Westley Determan – 28:44.91 (8k)
Briar Cliff Invite: Calvin Rohde – 25:17.16 (8k)
Blazing Tiger: Calvin Rohde – 25:37.5 (8k)

Based on the current GPAC ratings, the Concordia women and Dordt men enter the conference meet as favorites to capture conference championships. The race for first on the women’s side figures to be a heated one. Nationally, Concordia is ranked No. 6 with Dordt close behind at No. 8. The Bulldog women jumped up two spots after a strong showing at the Blazing Tiger NAIA Classic. The No. 6 national ranking is the highest for the women’s program since 2005. Both Doane and Hastings are also receiving votes in the NAIA poll. As for the men, two GPAC squads appear in the national poll: No. 7 Dordt and No. 17 Doane.

In the history of Concordia Cross Country, the program has claimed a combined 12 team conference championships and 25 individual conference titles. The most recent individual GPAC champions were Sarah Kortze (2012) for the women and Colin Morrissey (2012) for the men. The 2009 season marked the last time the Bulldogs sent their men’s and women’s teams to the national meet in the same year.

Official qualifiers for the 2023 NAIA Cross Country National Championships will be announced once all conference meets have concluded. The national meet is set to be held in at Fort Vancouver National Historic Championship Course in Vancouver, Wash., Nov. 17. More details on the meet can be found via the NAIA website HERE.

2023 Concordia GPAC Championship Rosters

Claire Beikmann
Hannah Beintema
Keegan Beisel
Kylahn Freiberg (Captain)
Keeli Green
Rylee Haecker
Rhaya Kaschinske
Julie McIntyre
Jaiden Tweton
Alayna Vargas
Alternate: Faith Williamson

Westley Determan
Jack Ellis
Thomas Gorline
Charlie Hayden
Aaron Jendro
Trevor Kuncl
Aidan Limback
Nathan Pennekamp
Trey Robertson
Calvin Rohde (Captain)
Alternate: Adric Schmitz

Concordia Cross Country History

All-time team conference championships

Men (8): 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1997, 2004, 2009, 2012 (titles in 1969 and 1970 were won in the Tri-State Conference)

Women (6): 1995, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2019

All-time individual conference champions

Men (18)
Dan Cloeter (1970, 1971, 1972, 1973)
Dave Cloeter (1975)
Kregg Einspahr (1979, 1980, 1981)
Brandon Seifert (1997, 1998, 1999)
Andrew Walquist (2003, 2004)
Luka Thor (2006)
Zach Meineke (2008, 2009)
Dana Schmidt (2010)
Colin Morrissey (2012)

Women (7)
Sharon Holthaus (1980)
Amy Luft (1997)
Stacey Hain (1998)
Molly Engel (2002, 2003, 2004)
Sarah Kortze (2012)